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Five great Silicon Valley reads, from Burning Man to Netflix

August 26, 2013|By Chris O'Brien
  • Silicon Valley empties out this week and denizens flock to the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert.
Silicon Valley empties out this week and denizens flock to the Burning Man… (Sam Morris / Associated…)

Shopping carts full of bottled water. Your hippie neighbors renting an RV the length of a city block. No lines at your favorite coffee shop.

Yep, it's Burning Man week in Silicon Valley. And Nellie Bowles of the San Francisco Chronicle has a fun look at how the desert gathering draws the local techies. Actually, this isn't really new. Way back in the dot-com days, techies flooded the place and companies paid their way, including setting up ostentatious discos and camps.

But the anecdotes in the story are great. And it looks like things have kicked up a notch or two. What may be new, comes at the end, when founder Larry Harvey muses about the impact of what he calls "turnkey camps."

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"What people are noticing is the rise of the turnkey camp, where a whole economy of people come in to set up people's camps before the guests arrive and then stay as butlers, cooks, mercenary efforts," said Harvey, 65. "And now the BLM wants a cut of it."

BLM, as in the federal Bureau of Land Management. And "cut of it" as in taxes.

Other great Silicon Valley reads posted over the weekend include:

The unauthorized Marissa Mayer bio: Over at Business Insider blog, Nicholas Carlson seems to have committed an astonishing act of old school journalism with an epic profile of Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer. How long is it? It’s so long, I printed the thing out to read it.

And it was worth it. Not only do you get a grand sense of her as a person, but there are some pretty interesting tidbits. For instance, Yahoo considered Apple executive Eddy Cue for the CEO job. And Mayer was once so inspired by a literature teacher’s lessons on "Heart of Darkness," she sneaked into the classroom and decorated it in a jungle theme.

What is Medium? No idea. Other than it's a new publishing platform created by the folks who started Blogger and Twitter. Medium is intended to be somehow different. Though exactly how it’s different is not readily apparent.

The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal asks: “What is Medium?” His conclusion: It seems to be some confusing hybrid between blogging platform and magazine.

And by the way, as a bonus read, entrepreneur Anil Dash, (writing on Medium), offers a kind of rebuttal and attempt at an explanation for what Medium is trying to be. "But Medium's nature isn't confusing by accident — it's confusing by design," Dash writes.

That clears things up.

The TV revolution won't be televised: Once you're done bingeing on "Orange Is The New Black" and "House Of Cards," learn about the man behind Netflix's content strategy: Ted Sarandos. Right here at the Los Angeles Times, our Dawn Chmielewski has a fascinating profile of the man who is tasked with helping the Los Gatos-based company turn the TV industry upside down.

She writes: "The man at the center of Netflix's transformation from DVD-by-mail service to Internet TV network, Sarandos, as the chief content officer, seems to take pleasure in upending industry conventions — ordering an entire season of a series without asking for a pilot, withholding ratings and even throwing all of a new show's episodes online at once, in one big bundle, so viewers don't have to wait a week for the next installment of a series they love."

Speaking of burning things: The blogger of the moment in Silicon Valley isn't actually in Silicon Valley. Nick Bilton of the New York Times looks at Brooklyn-based Sam Biddle, the man behind Gawker’s resurrected Valleywag blog.

In recent weeks, Biddle has broken such juicy tidbits as Sheryl Sandberg's unpaid intern. Biddle's bosses say that given the valley's mix of money and cluelessness, it's ripe to be taken down a notch.

Biddle says he's not worried about being persona non grata in Silicon Valley.

"There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had," Mr. Biddle said. "But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning."

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